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Re-viewing William Blake’s Paradise Regained (c. 1816–1820)

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This article presents a revisionist reading of William Blake’s (1757–1827) twelve watercolor designs for John Milton’s “Paradise Regained” (c. 1816–1820). The designs have previously been dismissed in critical commentary as of little interest to Blake scholarship, or regarded as a narrative merely about Christ’s human nature. This article argues that they are also a visual expression of Blake’s cosmology; it is proposed that the designs express a positive cosmology, in which Paradise is not so much to be regained, as re-viewed. The article argues that Blake emphasizes Christ’s divinity in the designs and that he is depicted as an immanent, sacramental presence in the world; hence, the world that Christ inhabits in the designs is a Paradise. The article begins by outlining its reading of Blake’s view of the material world, and moves on to discuss the “Paradise Regained” designs in detail, with a particular focus on The Baptism of Christ, the opening subject of the series, which establishes the positive cosmology presented throughout the series.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Manchester, England


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